LinkedIn is a great tool for nurturing business contacts and getting you noticed by recruiters. But if neglected, your profile page can result in missed opportunities and even tarnish your professional image.
Some recruiters are using the social media platform to screen candidates before curriculum vitae (CVs) even hit their desk. LinkedIn is also being used by businesses to target and assess potential clients.
“If done right, LinkedIn can open doors you never thought possible,” said Nathan Kievman, CEO of Linked Strategies Group, which coaches professionals and businesses on how to best use LinkedIn. “It can attract people you never would have thought would be interested in talking to you.”
Now is the ideal time for a digital makeover. At the end of 2012, LinkedIn rolled out its next-generation user profiles, which moved away from the stagnant, CV-style format to a more dynamic, interactive page designed to tell your professional story.
Kievman, along with social media specialist Matthew Lewis of UK consultancy eSocialMedia, offered these tips on how professionals can get the most out of LinkedIn’s new profile changes.
Craft an engaging professional headline. Your professional headline is the space directly under your name and is where most people post their current position.
Due to a larger photo space, the headline has gained prominence and is visible every time you communicate on LinkedIn, whether in a forum or by email.
“It’s your three seconds to create curiosity for whoever it is that’s looking at you,” Kievman said. “You want it to portray yourself in the best light possible.”
A good headline should say what you do and build trust, credibility and authority in the way you are perceived. It should highlight your successes and adopt a tone that is suitable to your position and the market you are reaching out to. For example, a business consultant might adopt a more bullish headline than a CFO.
Nathan Kievman’s profile uses generic keywords that describe the industry he is in – “Digital & Social Media Marketing”; what he specialises in – “LinkedIn Lead Generation Specialist”; and why he is credible – “Int’l Keynote Speaker”.
Previously, Kievman highlighted the amount of revenue he helped clients generate, but this has been removed as his business has expanded from smaller clients to medium-size companies.
Good professional headlines do not need to highlight successes. Beth Schneider, a business process outsourcing provider, attracts users by stating how her business can improve your life:
“Done-for-You” Processes & Systems | Helping Biz Owners Work Less, Take More Vacations, Make More Money & Have More Fun!
Questions you should ask yourself when crafting a headline include: What are you good at? In which generic category do you classify yourself? What establishes you as unique? Can you add something statistical about your successes?
Professionalise your picture. A new feature of the LinkedIn profile is a larger and more prominent picture space. This means that pictures that were sized for the old profile are now too small in the new format.
“It means that ‘crop and chop’ photos, where you’ve got a picture of you and some mates at a wedding and cropped yourself out, does not cut it anymore,” Lewis said.
Pictures should portray the image you would want to present in a work or client-facing environment.
“We advise using lighter backgrounds, such as whites and light blues, or just a professional setting. You should also be looking into the page, so from right to left, and not straight into the camera,” advises Kievman.
Lewis warns against leaving the picture space blank because it leads users to believe your profile is dormant.
Sharpen your summary. This is the main area of text where you can describe your background and has been elevated to near the top of the profile. Previously, the section was buried farther down and sometimes ignored, but experts warn against this as it offers you the main opportunity to sell your story.
In crafting a summary you should illustrate why companies should hire you, where you add value and what you can offer a potential employer or business partner. Use bullet points to illustrate key points rather than blocks of text.
“Your summary should play to the fact that you are trustworthy and credible, and answer why someone would want to reach out to you,” Kievman said.
Lewis suggests incorporating keywords into the summary to help drive search engine optimisation. Keywords are terms that you would like associated with any search for your profile to help drive traffic to your page.
“Tell the story of who you are, not just your job. It’s about hooking people. Details of your career can be expanded on in the CV section,” he said.
Add “bells and whistles”, but avoid clutter. The new profile allows you to publish videos, presentations, PDFs and other audiovisual content.
Use this opportunity to highlight your best work and successes. If you have presented on a subject, allowing users to view your presentation or a video could help to establish you as a thought leader.
On the flip side, you should cast a critical eye over your profile and remove information that is not relevant to your professional aspirations. If you overelaborate your career and achievements, it could make you appear self-indulgent.
Curate your contact box. Contact information has moved to the top of the page and is not visible until you click on a dropdown menu in the top box.
Lewis advises users to treat the contact information box as you would a business card.
“A lot of successful relationships can start on LinkedIn, but they won’t end there. If they are going to be successful, then you are taking it to the real world. Put all the information on your business card on there,” Lewis said.
As contact information is hidden, Lewis recommends including important websites in your summary box.
“If you work for a huge company, then it is fine to leave it in your contact box. But if you are a freelancer, then it is much more of a lifeline and should be publicised,” Lewis said.
When adding or editing websites in the contact box, use descriptions that entice users to click on them rather than using LinkedIn’s generic terms. This can be done by selecting “other” and adding a title when prompted.
Be active. Activity feeds have been moved to a prominent position near the top of the profile. This means it is more important to appear active and contribute to relevant discussions, or you could risk looking dormant, which could deter others from engaging with you.
“It gives an insight into your personality. It’s all about appearing helpful and knowledgeable. Someone should look at your recent activity feed and think, ‘This person’s presence adds value to the conversations he is involved in,’ ” Lewis said.
Again, avoid self-promotion, as it will turn off other users. A typical example of being too self-promotional is posting too many articles you have written that do not add value to the forums you address. In your feed it will show that you are primarily interested in promoting your own work.
Nurture your network. The new profile has much better tools, located on the right sidebar, that monitor the relationships, common interests and traits that you share with other users.
This is a great way of finding common ground with contacts, or even using them to introduce you to users who fall outside your network.
LinkedIn is a great tool for aspiring professionals to nurture a network that can help to advance their career.
“I would focus on building a very targeted network of people above me in way of rank,” Kievman said. “The No. 1 strategy I’ve employed in growing my own businesses and career is identifying where I would like to get and then finding people who are already there, and work on getting them to become mentors to me.”
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